As part of its strategy, the Government says it is widening the definition of domestic violence to include non-physical, economic abuse, controlling and coercive behaviour as part of developing the existing National Strategy on Domestic Abuse.
The Government said it was acutely aware of the likelihood of the increased risk of domestic abuse during the Covid period and as such, the national strategy was brought into sharper focus. During the lockdown period, a specific Covid-19 Domestic Abuse working group made up of professionals from all stakeholder departments, and extended to include a representative from Women in Need, was appointed for this purpose so that all agencies were prepared to deal with the anticipated influx of cases. Specific focused systems were established to ensure that any victims of domestic abuse would be able to receive the help and support needed on a multi agency basis. Measures also included increasing the number of secure accommodation made available to victims and families should the need arise.
In addition, the situation was monitored daily at the platinum level of command to ensure that there were no spikes.
In parallel, there was also a media campaign during this difficult period to raise awareness and to remind the community that there is always help at hand. This included posters containing contact information which were distributed widely as well as on social media as well as videos which were aired on GBC.
Minister for Justice and Equality and also Minister with responsibility for Civil Contingencies Samantha Sacramento MP stated, “Domestic abuse is very much something that concerns us and initiatives and development are ongoing all the time. For this reason, it was immediately a priority for us during Covid and all the professionals were ready to deal with the wave of cases that was expected.
In addition to our work specific to domestic abuse during the Covid pandemic, improvement on domestic abuse strategies across the board is ongoing; the teams who are involved in developing and delivering the various stands of the strategy are extremely committed. Over the coming months, we will be announcing the culmination of a number of initiatives that we have been working on, the improvements from this work will go beyond legislation. Our focus and our objective is to build a society that has zero tolerance towards domestic abuse, where people are encouraged to call it out and where victims, as well as perpetrators receive the support that they need."